A Map Of The Pilgrimage

A Map Of The Pilgrimage

The metaphor that governs the sequence of sonnets in this book is simple: to read is to venture with companions on a pilgrimage toward a shared end.

This book’s journey begins with the creation. Heavenly bodies burst into darkness. Then comes the earth, people, and, eventually, language, which is “Creation thinking about itself.” Human consciousness, expressed in language, feels astonishing, improbable. We speak, we write our names, we realize that the letters on the page spell us, we paint, we arrange sounds in time and space, and our creations convey meaning. Section one of this book displays people performing acts of dumbfounding creation: composing music, arranging colors and shapes on canvas, playing games, inventing slang.

The second section of the book explores less cultural, more personal connections between people—love and anger, forgiveness and resentment, guilt and shame, celebration and quiet friendship. It also pictures our personal and often quirky connections with the creation, our affection for creatures, the mystery of watching and caring for them.

In section three of this book we dare to walk the wild and often solitary path of death and grief. This section records the terrible silence of a dead mother, the refusal to believe it could happen, the loneliness. But the wilderness of grief does not last forever. We venture together toward hope, toward the reversal of death: resurrection.

 The last section of the book probes the meaning of silence, investigates the possibility that death may not be the most final silence, that at the core of everything might live a great and true silence that is God. The Scriptures, of course, narrate stories in which characters such as Moses and Elijah hear the voice of God. And in our tradition the Bible itself has often been thought of as God’s word. But believers as well as skeptics have also attested to God’s silence.

It is silence, finally, that gives meaning to language—out of which language arises and to which language returns. Silence is the white space between poems in this book and even the pause between words. So the journey of these fifty-some sonnets—the pilgrimage of writing and reading them—moves toward the hush of the last page. It’s true that silence can appear stifling, baffling, enraging, meaningless. But not all silence is that. Silence can also be elegant and pure, deeply satisfying and primal. And perhaps in our noisy, addled American culture, one way to find God is through silence. After all, “in silence,”as Max Picard wrote, “dwells the one uncreated, everlasting Being.”

—Excerpted from the Introduction to Pilgrim, You Find Your Path By Walking by Jeanne Murray Walker

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